Poetry: Spectacle by Sarah Ghazal Ali

In “Spectacle,” a routine yet invasive medical procedure symbolizes the surveillance we have on women, women of color, and their bodies. With references to the Bible, the speaker in “Spectacle” contemplates a puzzling dilemma of rigidness or modernity: “who consoled Sarah consoled who?”



The doctor uses a mirror to see
inside me. His speculum yawns

but my mouths clench
and I am disciplined with pain.

An exercise in elision:

Abraham and his blade,
one son offered or the other.

Sarah consoled Hagar consoled Sarah.
Cautious readers account for many truths.

When labor afflicts my abdomen,
they’ll check to see if I’m effaced—

if my cervix is thin enough, is ripe
enough to leak a fresh life.

When a father approaches a mother,
he forgets to check the door,

ajar and hiding a watchful girl
who sees him raise his blade

of a hand, its straight and narrow path.
Who consoled Sarah consoled who?

The wick of tonight’s sandalwood candle
shoulders a flame without flinching.

Memory’s heady drupes split
even as I lurch forward, eyes open.



Sarah Ghazal Ali

Sarah Ghazal Ali is a Pakistani poet based in California. She is currently an MFA candidate and Juniper Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she teaches composition and creative writing. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Memorious, Narrative, Palette Poetry, Tinderbox, Waxwing, and others. Find her at www.sarahgali.com.  

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